I am sick today. I admit it… I am actually “sick”, not just allergies. Prior to the pandemic, I got sick maybe once a year. One big inconvenient cold… once a year. During the pandemic, everyone was on high alert – every sneeze, every sniffle, came with the question “Is it COVID?”. Since we were all hypersensitive, I stayed home and isolated every time I felt a little off. I had a really bad cold at the end of 2020 (had to wear gloves and a mask every time I left my bedroom just in case the COVID tests weren’t accurate with an immune-compromised adult daughter in the house). I had allergies in 2021 really bad… and a number of days I just felt “off” … a few weeks ago my allergies started again, but now I have a cold and sinus infection on top of them.
Being sick reminds me I miss my partner (or a partner period) … he was the only one I ever allowed to take care of me when I was sick. It would be nice to have someone bring me soup, cuddle me in bed and watch movies while I doze and blow my nose… tell me everything will be okay… it’s okay that I can’t work today… it’s okay the house is a mess and I need groceries.
My current condition has me thinking about some things… I remember every little thing would send my mom to grab the Sudafed or Contact or some other medicine. I rarely take a Tylenol. I forget how effective medicine can actually be… I hang my head over boiling water and try every “natural” thing I can before actually getting medicine. Partly because I’m over-sensitive… a children’s Benadryl can knock me out for 12 hours (not always a horrible thing – sometimes that is useful to get well), but mostly because my mom had a tendency to become addicted to anything and everything and I’m afraid of being that way. She was addicted to nose spray (Afrin) for a time (not sure why). She was always looking for the magic pill to make life great… uppers, downers, diet pills, sleeping pills, Valium to calm her “nerves”, Codeine for cramps… she was a walking pharmacy. What became her favorite or most socially acceptable drug of choice was alcohol… it allowed her to be bolder and more confident, and in her eyes, more “fun”. Combined with her other addictions, some days she was flying very, very high. She was a product of her environment and in a time in history when many people did the same thing… but not everyone was an addict.
I wonder how many people out there are like me. So hypersensitive to “becoming addicted” they forget to take a Tylenol for a headache or are afraid to have more than one glass of wine once in a long while… the addiction rabbit hole is the scariest thing in the world to me. I saw the hole my mom was in and there was nothing I could do to get her out. Sometimes I tricked myself into thinking it was “normal” – just not a “normal” I wanted to choose. The alcohol was how she tried to medicate her inner pain. We all have it to one degree or another (inner pain) … some push it down and ignore it, others unconsciously pass it on to others with their actions and words, some try to fix it through acceptance and validation from others, a few find acceptable ways to process it.
Actually, we all have some addictions… sugar, nicotine, sex, approval, working out for the endorphin high, even rage can be an addiction… the thing is I think being conscious of them and making choices that support our overall well-being (and those around us). If left unchecked, it gets bigger. If I see myself getting addicted to something, I take control before it gets too far. But I’m a control freak… or maybe one of the many reasons I am one.
My mom’s struggles with addiction went so far, the last six months of her life she had started huffing paint. I have never actually said that out loud before… it’s our secrets that make us sick, so I vowed at some point to not have them anymore, but I still wanted to protect people’s memory of her – for her (always the co-dependent daughter). If she hadn’t been murdered, she undoubtedly would have died as a result of addiction. She was more than her addictions, but that was all some people could see after a while. She was a beautiful soul, who felt too much. She was an artist and a poet. She loved every living thing with her whole heart – except herself.
Why do so many people fail to love themselves? I think we are taught not to. We are told “don’t be conceited”, “don’t be selfish”, “put others first” … We even think to ourselves when we hear the air mask instructions before taking off in a plane “they say to put my own mask on first, but I will make sure the kids and husband have theirs on first anyway”. At least my generation was raised that way… I suspect some of the later generations were raised differently and got different programming making them more self-acknowledging (worked really hard not to use judging words like self-absorbed, selfish, etc. LOL). It’s really hard to love yourself when you are taught you don’t matter or matter less. Your “duty” is to put everyone and everything ahead of yourself. Women, in particular, were taught this. I’m not real clear at this moment what men of the same generation were taught…
Those paradigms are precisely how I ended up married to the wrong person for 24 years. I put him and the kids first. There came a time I had to put myself first to continue to exist. That’s why many people hated me when I left the situation… it was not what a “good” person does per our societal programming. Of course, none of those observers actually knew what my life was like behind the carefully chosen façade, because as a good little co-dependent adult child of addicts I would protect my husband from people knowing the real him. (There was one sister-in-law who said to me “I can’t believe how brave you are. I wish I was that brave.” We have never spoken since – her husband won’t allow it).
People are afraid to be authentic. I am too sometimes. I recently made my blog private for a few days because that fear reemerged. We have a survival instinct that makes us need to be liked and approved of. Sometimes my words can make people feel uncomfortable or even hurt…I have a fear of hurting others with my honest and authentic self sometimes (it would never be my intention). I show all the sides of myself in my writing… including the sometimes-unbalanced processing of childhood or life wounds… not all the sides are pretty or cute. Some may judge my choices (particularly when it comes to men or sex), but they haven’t walked in my shoes… they don’t know what I need to be balanced or to heal or learn in this lifetime.
The thing is… I think we all have a hard time loving ourselves. At least the majority of the time. You have to love yourself – I mean really love yourself – before you can give real love to others. If you love and accept yourself, with all your flaws and imperfections, then you have some solid foundation… you are with yourself your whole life so you need to or you will be miserable and spend all your time looking outside yourself for love and validation no one can give you. Once you love and accept yourself, the love you give to others has the same level of acceptance of flaws in it… unconditional love. I can love someone regardless of what they do or don’t do, not ever expecting perfection in them – their imperfection is what makes them individuals, without expectation of it being reciprocated because I know my own worthiness – that is unconditional. Honestly, I do forget my own worthiness once in a while… but we are all works in progress… doing the best we can with the tools we have.